The Power of Conversation in Psychotherapy With Roxanne Francis, MSW, RSW

The Power of Conversation in Psychotherapy With Roxanne Francis, MSW, RSW

Starting a conversation is always the first step towards making progress, says Roxanne Francis, MSW, RSW. 

For over 15 years, Roxanne, a registered social worker, acclaimed psychotherapist and renowned international speaker, has profoundly impacted countless lives through the power of conversation. Her passion for initiating dialogue was sparked by pressing societal issues, such as inadequate mental health resources and gaps of representation in the profession. 

“My love of people drew me to the field of social work, but it was also my inability to stand for social injustice,” Roxanne says. “I came to Canada from Jamaica as a young adult, and whenever I went back to visit, I saw a lack of a social safety network. This led to me asking questions, which eventually landed me in this profession.” 


Roxanne earned her BSW from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2009 and her MSW from the University of Toronto in 2010, specializing in children and families. Over time, as stress, anxiety, and other mental struggles worsened due to societal structures and systems, Roxanne felt it was her duty to provide outlets designed for wellness. In 2018, she started Francis Psychotherapy & Consulting, allowing clients of various backgrounds to receive a reasoned, yet compassionate approach, to managing mental clarity. 

Before entering private practice, Roxanne says it was crucial for her to first develop the skills necessary as a social worker, so that her advice to clients would lead to action. 

“Before anyone opens a private practice, they [social workers/social service workers] need to be curious about people and their situations,” she says. “Understanding that you can’t look at someone’s life from a single story or from what you think you know or have read during your academic training is key, since that person’s lived experience may say something different.” 

It’s hard work, Roxanne explains, since private practice isn’t the same as working for an established agency or organization. With an increasing number of professionals entering private practice since the COVID-19 pandemic, she acknowledges that learned skills, knowledge, and judgment need to be developed with time and experience outside of academic training. 

“This isn’t a route towards easy money – it’s entrepreneurship,” Roxanne says. “This takes a lot of work for clients to come to your door, and I think those who are coming out of university or college should have an understanding of how to run a business.” 


Roxanne highlights the importance of supervision and building relationships with experienced professionals before entering private practice. To optimize learning and the professional relationship between supervisor and supervisee, Roxanne says it boils down to the individual. Having served over 60 clinicians as a certified clinical supervisor, she says that taking a personalized approach to each case will result in progress. “Some supervisors may only do case consultations, but I believe working holistically leads to something better.” 

“If a supervisee needs advice on how to get out of a difficult situation, or work through their trauma, I provide encouragement and a bit of non-clinical therapy to allow the individual to work through their present problems, ranging from imposter syndrome to achieving a healthy work-life balance. We talk about clinical work, but also the non-clinical pieces that can affect the clinical side of things which educates both parties while being fun.” 

Roxanne’s lived experiences significantly impact and influence the direction of all her work which is demonstrated in her teachings as an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto. Her primary focus is centered on anti-Black racism, racial trauma, wellness at work and women’s wellness, which stem from her personal experiences. 

“My Canadian and Jamaican identities are important to me, as both have unique distinctions that influence my approach to private practice and supervision. For example, I know what it’s like to be a Black person in this country, the struggles that come with that identity, and the intersectionality of being a racialized immigrant woman. If I come across individuals who have a different social positioning than my own, I approach it with a willingness to learn from them and offer support that they need due to my own interest in learning from others.” 

Roxanne says that many racialized supervisees who come from historically marginalized communities gravitate towards her due to feeling comfortably represented, but many non-racialized clinicians are supported in their own, respective way. Roxanne believes it’s necessary to ask questions without fear of judgment to unpack various traumas, so that it prepares them for working with every client. 

“As a social worker, keeping an open safe space like this has helped me tremendously as well,” Roxanne says. “It shows that people can reach out for therapy once they have worked with someone who offered comfort and guidance, and it strengthens that relationship overall.” 


Roxanne explains how in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and societal protests after George Floyd’s murder challenged professionals in the sector in new ways, namely how they interact with clients. She says that, amidst these circumstances, opportunities arose to engage thoughtfully. “With the rise of virtual practice, professionals were able to expand their client base with less barriers. It also showed that remaining open-minded for diverse clientele was essential, since, as a social worker [or social service worker], you have to accommodate different sensitivities.” 

Roxanne challenges the next generation of professionals to stay curious. Being open to the unknown but staying prepared and networking with established supervisors is key, she explains. Above all else, Roxanne states that wellness starts with the professional. 

“I always affirm that it’s required to take care of yourself first. “Check in with yourself before you step into the arena; your role is very unique with people looking to you for guidance and it is therefore critical to be in the right frame of mind first.” 

The College thanks Roxanne for speaking with us and sharing her experiences. In appreciation, the College has made a donation to the Refuge Youth Outreach Centre.